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July 19, 2009

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Hotel blast hunt hints at radical Islamists

INVESTIGATORS were sifting through two bomb-damaged luxury Indonesian hotels yesterday for clues to those behind suicide attacks that shattered four years of stability in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

Although officials could not say who they believed was responsible for Friday's attacks, suspicion is pointing toward Jemaah Islamiah, the radical militant Islamist group responsible for a string of deadly attacks that seemed to end in 2005.

"It has the signature of our 'friends'," said a retired Southeast Asian police officer now focused on counter-terrorism in the region.

The bombers struck the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton, luxury hotels popular with businessmen and diplomats and considered to be among the most secure buildings in the capital.

Officials said eight people were killed and 55 injured.

"The latest information we have on those victims is that eight are dead and of those dead, four are foreigners (and) one is an Indonesian person," Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said.

"Of the dead, we believe that three we haven't yet identified includes the suicide bombers."

The casualties included citizens of Indonesia, the United States, Australia, South Korea, the Netherlands, Italy, Britain, Canada, Norway, Japan and India.

US President Barack Obama, who lived in Jakarta as a child after his mother married an Indonesian, called the attacks "outrageous."

"These attacks make it clear that extremists remain committed to murdering innocent men, women and children of any faith in all countries," the White House said.

The blasts are a severe blow for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was re-elected earlier this month on the back of strong growth in Southeast Asia's biggest economy.


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